Het Groot Begijnhof

Leuven Travel Blog

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Groot Begijnhof
We had a very pleasant wander around Leuven today, accompanied by friends. We started at Renee, a statue built to represent the female students of Leuven, just outside Sint Michielskerk, a baroque church designed in 1650 by the Jesuit Priest Willem Hessius. We then wandered down to Geluksbrenger (Good luck), a statue of a duck with instructions of how to trick people into thinking the water is activated by rubbing the tail when there is actually a secret button to push.

The Groot Begijnhof is a World Heritage listed city within a city. It was founded in 1230 and includes 62 houses, ten convents and a church, all designed to look inwards rather than to be connected to the rest of the city.
Father Damien's Church
Begijnhofs rose in popularity throughout the low countries during this period, due to "a surplus of women" (actually due to a shortage of men because of war combined with a social structure that made it almost impossible for women to support themselves). Many of the "surplus" women joined convents, but the strict rules (and probably more importantly - the high cost of admission) required the formation of a semi-religious institution where women (the begijns) could live as part of a separate community but still have access to the greater economic activity of the town. The Begijnhof complex is still amazingly intact, and was taken over by the Welfare Commission in 1925 (except for the Gothic Church, built in 1305) and restored for student and academic housing.

After het Groot Begijnhof we walked to the Leuven Botanic Gardens via a large statue of Sylvain Van de Weyer, a leading Leuven-born politician during following the Belgian Revolution in 1830. He was selected as foreigner representative of the revolutionaries because of his excellent English, a skill which is now mundane in Leuven. We only had a brief walk through the botanic gardens, but the hidden statues and bright colours made us promise to return. We finished by the statue De Kotmadam, in honour of the landladies of student accommodation.

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Groot Begijnhof
Groot Begijnhof
Father Damiens Church
Father Damien's Church
Saint Michaels Church
Saint Michael's Church
Renee
Renee
Good luck
Good luck
Good luck
Good luck
Groot Begijnhof
Groot Begijnhof
Groot Begijnhof
Groot Begijnhof
Hortus Botanicus Lovaniensis
Hortus Botanicus Lovaniensis
Hortus Botanicus Lovaniensis
Hortus Botanicus Lovaniensis
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photo by: Chokk